During a recent planning meeting for a women’s interfaith group that I’m a part of, one of the members raised the question of the need to know the basic religious beliefs of others. Some of us felt that in order to really understand one another, we need more information about the individual religions represented in the group. Certainly, part of loving others can include wanting to understand and appreciate their faith. That’s one of the reasons interfaith groups exist.
But the point was also made that we don’t need to know all the details about people’s faith in order to accept the people themselves. That particular issue was significant to our group because we welcome women of all faiths, some of which are quite unfamiliar to us.
That point really got me thinking. What is it about people that makes us love them as the Bible instructs us to love one another? Do we really need to know people’s beliefs in order to love the people?
Certainly, getting to know someone better who is from a different religion or culture is a good thing. It helps us understand and learn from one another and broadens our perspective on the world. And the interchange that takes place face to face on a personal level is easy to grasp, but what about loving people in other countries, those whom we may never have the opportunity to meet?
I’ve needed to change how I’m thinking about these “neighbors” on a larger scale. I’ve found that when I focus my thought on God as Father-Mother of all of us, I can think of everyone as my brother or sister, including those across the globe whom I haven’t met. I can trust that because their Father-Mother loves them, I can also love them without ever needing to know about the specifics of their background.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, says it best in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established” (p. 467).
Accepting and loving others is something that can be done without having to agree with or even know about an individual’s religion or culture. By challenging our thought about our requirements for loving our neighbors and including everyone in our thought as brothers and sisters with one Parent, we can see that there is nothing to prevent us from joining with those of various faiths and cultures to bring about the peace that we hope for. We can actually begin to see that “[t]here is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;... One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4, 6).
My experience with the interfaith group has pushed me to see each individual as a loved and loving child of God, and I have been blessed by knowing this wonderful group of women. We have been able to work together on projects and to support one another in opening thought to include each of us in a greater love.